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  • To Catch the Rain by Lonny Grafman leads with the motivating sentence “Inspiring stories of communities coming together to catch their rain and how you can do it too.” This guidebook is meant for practitioners and partners, whether students, teachers, designers, engineers, organizers, or end-users.

    Bringing his experiences from past collaborations and the plans of dozens of Appropedia users together, To Catch the Rain shares a selection of different strategies for building low-cost rainwater catchment systems with technologies that are appropriate for the place, the available materials, and the amount of rainwater available for capture. In practice, the nuts and bolts of rainwater catchment in Section 2 is an invaluable resource as it provides components, tools, working methods, and a rare window into the cooperative planning and building processes.

    To Catch the Rain highlights the importance of community-based participation throughout each part of a design and development process, beginning with the important step of inclusively identifying the project to be undertaken. Grafman’s comprehensive writing allows people to grasp the subject from different experience levels. At the core of his argument is that working together allows us to find the best solutions as well as multiple workarounds to overcome obstacles. To Catch the Rain is our satellite roadmap. With it, we can identify three or four different approaches to reach our destination. One approach may contain traffic, one may contain tolls, and one may be more scenic. Each way can get us there, and our criteria will inform the route we choose.

    Mary Mattingly co-creates sculptural ecosystems in urban spaces. Currently, Swale is a floating food forest in New York City, and she recently completed “Pull” for the International Havana Biennial. Mattingly founded the Waterpod Project, a barge-based public space and self-sufficient habitat. In 2009 the Waterpod hosted over 200,000 visitors in New York. Her work has been featured in Art in America, Artforum, Grey Room, Sculpture Magazine, China Business News, The New York Times, Financial Times, Le Monde, New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, on BBC News, MSNBC, Fox, NPR, WNBC, and Art21.

    To Catch the Rain is targeted at makers – DIYers looking for practical solutions to water problems for themselves or their communities. The book also provides an excellent overview of rainwater harvesting for students and teachers in environmental science, sustainable design, international development, and engineering.

    Lonny Grafman, the founder of the world-renowned user-developed website Appropedia, takes the reader through a tour de force of real, practical, global experiences of rainwater catchment at both the individual and community levels. Grafman walks the reader step-by-step through transparent design analysis to successfully engineer rainwater harvesting systems that work whether you are in one of the most remote impoverished places in the world or in wealthy and technically savvy California.

    He shares intriguing stories from dozens of locations and synthesizes the work of hundreds of engaged community members and students that have contributed to the open-source appropriate technological development of rainwater harvesting. To Catch the Rain is richly illustrated with pictures of real rain harvesting systems from all over the world – both what works and what doesn’t. Intriguingly, failures and solutions can be the most useful and thought-provoking. The end of the book provides detailed stories on a wide selection of rain catchment systems and the people that made them. What the systems all have in common is careful attention to being socially and culturally appropriate for their users. For example, Grafman ingeniously illustrates how his team purposefully rigged one of their systems to break whenever students in the school attempted to use it to climb to the roof. A simple zip tie fixes the break while ensuring the integrity of the system and keeping students off the roof of the school! Although Grafman and his students worked on many of the systems highlighted in To Catch the Rain, much of the information came from the global Appropedian community. It is both touching and empowering to see people helping one another by sharing what works for providing rainwater for practical engineered use like the simple act of drinking a clean cup of water. This is a must-read for anyone that is being denied that simple pleasure.

    Dr. Joshua M. Pearce developed the first Sustainability program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Applied Sustainability graduate engineering program while at Queen’s University, Canada. He currently is a Professor cross-appointed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Michigan Technological University where he runs the Open Sustainability Technology Research Group. His research concentrates on the use of open-source appropriate technology to find collaborative solutions to problems in sustainability and poverty reduction. He is the editor-in-chief of HardwareX, a journal dedicated to open source scientific hardware and the author of the Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs.